Celebrating Christmas Bavarian style in Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth, Washington, celebrates the holidays with lights, music and German themes

BY Mallory Trudell

Hi, I’m Mallory, Tim’s youngest daughter. You may remember me from such stories as my Hawaiian adventure, or that time we went to North Dakota for a hockey game over Thanksgiving weekend.

So, recently I decided to uproot my entire life for a job halfway across the country. Exciting, sure, but also scary and, for someone as ridiculously (pathologically?) close to her family, it’s sad. I miss those nerds like crazy and have been incredibly homesick the two months I’ve been in Seattle. Of course, the best remedy for being homesick is to explore the new city and try to meet a few people, so I set out to do just that.

I’m a bit of an introvert and also quite socially anxious (I know, I sound like an awesome hang, right?!) so I like to have some organization around my social gatherings. Board games, a movie, or, in this case, a tour I found through Groupon! Groupon had a deal for a tour to Leavenworth, Washington, a small Bavarian-themed town that goes all out for two things: Oktoberfest and Christmas. Since I am into all things Christmas, I snapped up that Groupon voucher and went on the tour this last Saturday.

So, to set the scene, Leavenworth is about a two-and-a-half, three-hour drive from Seattle through the Cascades. It was snowing in the mountains, so about an hour into the drive, the landscape started to look like a true winter wonderland – snow-covered peaks, snow-tipped pines, and slushed snow along the side of the road. Okay, that last bit isn’t part of the wonderland.

The mountains are snow covered and the Washington fog sets in

We arrived in Leavenworth around 11 am. The Bavarian theme was clear from the second we hit town. If you lived there, your orthodontist’s office would be in a cute little cottage; your Starbucks would have a Bavarian façade; heck, even the liquor store had the stereotypical German village feel to it. As we drove past the town square, I saw a hundred or so children sliding down the small slope next to the gazebo where I could already hear a band playing Christmas music.

This is not your typical looking Starbucks

Most of my day was spent walking through all the different shops. Some shops, like The Cheesemonger’s Shop and The Hat Shop, had people queuing in front of them all day. Even the shops that didn’t have lines were always very crowded- Leavenworth during Christmas is definitely not a great place for anyone with claustrophobia issues! Whenever I started to feel too boxed in, I’d head outside, walk in the snow for a bit, watch Santa and Mrs. Claus take photos with kids, watch people on sleigh rides; during one of these walks, I saw a little parade of people wearing customized stockings as hats- I saw a Minion stalking, a flamingo stocking, and even a Santa stocking.

All kinds of stocking caps were seen around Leavenworth

My first stop, though, was to grab lunch. I stopped at King Ludwig’s, a Bavarian restaurant. (Other dining choices included Italian, Mexican, sushi, and burgers.) The waitresses were dressed in Bavarian tract, though I doubt the Crocs are authentic to Bavarian dress! I ordered the scweine schnitzel (pork), which came with red potatoes and rotkraut (red cabbage). When it came out, the first thing I smelled was butter, which was such a delicious smell. The schnitzel was juicy and the coating crisp; I put just a touch of lemon juice and mustard on it, and it was amazing, especially with the rotkraut.

Lunch was delicious

While I did not partake, a big draw at Leavenworth is all the booze. There are so many wine shops, distilleries and beer gardens. Most of the beer gardens have outdoor seating, where even in the 30-degree snowy weather, people were sitting comfortably thanks to the ample space heaters.

One of the highlights of my visit was the Nutcracker Museum. For $5, you get to watch a 15-minute video about the history of nutcrackers- did you know the feet were originally made of dough, which mice would eat, and then the nutcracker would be thrown out which is what makes finding an original difficult- and walking around multiple rooms with thousands of nutcrackers.

Cowboy nutcracker

There were stone nutcrackers from as early as 500 B.C., bronze ones that were popular during Shakespeare’s time, and, of course, the ever popular toy soldier style. Some of my personal favorites included a wooden squirrel, a silver squirrel, and a set of Star Wars-themed ones.

May the Force be with you

The ultimate attraction, though, is the lighting ceremony in the evening. The main street filled with the hundreds of people who had been milling about the shops. We listened to a choir sing Christmas songs; the mayor give a little introduction; a local pastor said a little prayer, and then the choir and crowd sang “Silent Night” as four star-bearers walked from either end of the town square until they met in front of the gazebo. Then with a 10-second count down from the crowd, the building and trees lit up.

This is one of my favorite things about the Christmas season

There is little in life more magical than a dark night illuminated by Christmas lights while fluffy snow comes down. It never fails to make me feel like a kid again, filling my heart with hope and love. (I may have been watching too many Christmas specials.) (Ha, that was a trick; there’s no such thing as too many Christmas specials, ya Grinch!)

So, if you’re ever in the Pacific Northwest during the holidays and you have some time, Leavenworth is definitely worth a day trip.

For e more information on Leavenworth, please visit http://www.leavenworth.org/attractions.

For Groupon information, please check out www.groupon.com.